OFB looking to distribute more than 10,000 pounds of produce

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Produce webOregon Food Bank, Southeast Oregon Services (OFB-SOS) will, once again, offer the Rural Harvest Share project  in Harney County.

The project provides fresh, healthy produce to Harney County residents at no charge. The first distribution of produce will be held Thursday, April 24. The produce will be available at the Catholic Church in Crane at 9:30 a.m., and at the Wadatika Health Center on the Burns Paiute Reservation at 10:45 a.m.

According to OFB-SOS Branch Services Manager Peter Lawson, original studies and surveys found that low-income households in remote, rural areas had extremely limited access to fresh, healthy produce within their local communities, and would often face driving dozens,  if not hundreds, of miles to grocers or farm stands to be able to supply themselves and their families.

Additionally, economic realities, like higher gas prices and lower sales, were negatively impacting vendor relationships, meaning that commercial produce trucks that once made the trip to remote areas were either terminating the services, or demanding that shop owners order much higher volumes, resulting in a higher probability of perishable waste on unsold goods.

From those initial studies, the Rural Harvest Share pilot program began in 2012 with deliveries to Arock and Jordan Valley, and then expanded to Harney County late in the 2012/13 fiscal year.

The program has a focus on “sharing the abundance” on what has already been donated to the Oregon Food Bank, while removing some of the stigmas many still seem to associate with more traditional forms of emergency and supplemental food assistance. With open air distributions, presumptive client eligibility, and a variety of products, the Rural Harvest Shares are a way to meet needs among the regions’ most vulnerable populations, improve overall community health, and engage folks in conversations around food security.

Also, Oregon Food Bank has identified a goal of doubling the amount of fresh produce moving through the system in the next five years.

In just fiscal year 2013/14, the Oregon Food Bank is looking to distribute more than 10,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables through the Rural Harvest Share efforts.

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